The Election Commission will take a call on the Congress's demand for invalidating votes of two of its MLAs who claimed to have voted for BJP nominees in the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat today, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said. He also alleged that the Congress was raising "non- issues" as the opposition party has "sensed defeat" Counting of votes for the three Rajya Sabha seats, which was supposed to start at 5 pm, was held up after the Congress demanded that the poll panel invalidate the votes of Raghavji Patel and Bhola Gohil who belonged to the Shankersinh Vaghela camp. BJP president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani, Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput and Congress stalwart Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, are in the fray for the three seats. While victories of Shah, who is making his debut in Parliament, and Irani looked certain given the numerical strength of BJP MLAs, the contest appeared close for Patel due to defections of six Congress MLAs and cross-voting. Earlier in the day, the Congress demanded Patel and Gohil's votes be quashed as they "showed" their ballots to the party's authorised agent as well as to the BJP's agent. Patel and Gohil showed their ballots to the Congress agent Shaktisinh Gehlot and to the BJP agent, thus their votes have become invalid, senior leader Shaktisinh Gohil had said. Meanwhile, Nitin Patel said the Election Officer had set aside the objections raised by the Congress about the two MLAs violating the rules. "However, after the Congress insisted that the Election Commission should take up their complaint, a report regarding this has been sent to the poll panel which is likely to take its decision. "A total of 176 votes have been cast. Only counting of votes is remaining which will take nearly one hour to complete once it resumes. Due to the objections raised by the Congress, counting is not started.
As the Congress member (Ahmed Patel) is set to lose, the party is now trying to delay the counting of votes," he said. Shaktisinh Gohil had said counting of votes cannot start until the presiding officer takes action on the objection raised by the Congress. However, the deputy chief minister said, "We believe that result will come from Election Commission and counting will begin in short time... All the three members of the BJP will win. As the Congress has sensed defeat, it is raising unnecessary objections." Ahmed Patel is tightly placed as he requires 45 votes to win in a situation where several members of his party have either defected to the ruling BJP or cross-voted to the BJP nominees. Patel's immediate opponent is Balwantsinh Rajput, who before joining the BJP was the Congress' chief whip in the Assembly. In the 182-member House, whose effective strength was reduced to 176 due to defections by the six Congress MLAs, the Congress now has 51 MLAs, seven of whom belong to the Vaghela camp, while the BJP has 121 members, the NCP 2, the JD (U) 1 and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) 1.
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